Top 4 Data Management Solutions for Snowflake Success

The Data Insights practice at 2nd Watch saw the potential of Snowflake from the time it was a tech-unicorn in 2015. Its innovative approach to storing and aggregating data is a game-changer in the industry! On top of that, Snowflake’s value proposition to their customers complements the data management expertise that 2nd Watch has been developing since its inception. Whether you’re a mid-sized insurance carrier or a Fortune 500 manufacturer, Snowflake and 2nd Watch know how to build scalable, tailored solutions for your business problems.Data Management Solutions for Snowflake Success

On top of skills in AI and machine learning, app development, and data visualization, here are the top four data engineering services 2nd Watch uses to deploy a successful cloud data platform initiative using a tool like the Snowflake Data Cloud.

Data Warehousing 

Snowflake offers powerful features in the data warehousing space that allow 2nd Watch delivery teams to stay laser-focused on business outcomes. They use innovative technologies that optimize your data for storage, movement, and active use (cloud computing). They also have an ever-increasing array of valuable tools that significantly improve an organization’s ability to enrich and share large amounts of data with other companies. 

But it doesn’t happen by magic…

2nd Watch can leverage our vast industry and technical experience to create a data warehouse for your organization that provides a fast, accurate, and consistent view of your data from multiple sources. Using best practices and well-established methodologies, 2nd Watch combines data from different sources into a centralized repository, creating a single version of the truth and a unified view.

The final design contains a user-friendly enterprise data warehouse that connects with both legacy and modern business intelligence tools to help you analyze data across your organization. The data warehouse is optimized for performance, scaling, and ease-of-use by downstream applications.

Potential Deliverables

  • Conceptual and physical data models for dimensional and analytical systems
  • Deployment of three semantic layers for tracking data in a central hub (raw, business using data vault, and data warehouse optimized for visualizations)
  • Design and development of departmental data marts of curated data
  • Training of end users for the cloud-based data solution and critical data applications and tools

Data Integration 

Snowflake has a lot of flexibility when it comes to the data integration process, meaning Snowflake’s Data Cloud allows companies to go beyond traditional extract, transform, and load data flows. With the Snowflake ecosystem, companies can leverage data integration solutions that do everything from data preparation, migration, movement, and management, all in an automated and scalable way.

The consultants at 2nd Watch will partner with you every step of the way and guide the entire team in the right direction to meet your decision-makers’ specific goals and your organization’s business data needs. These are some of the popular data integration tools and technologies that 2nd Watch can help integrate to Snowflake:

  • Azure Data Factory
  • AWS Glue and Lambda
  • Google Cloud Data Fusion
  • Fivetran/HVR
  • Etlworks 
  • IBM DataStage 
  • SnapLogic 
  • Plus, all the classics, including SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) and Informatica

Potential Deliverables

  • Integration of any number of sources to a centralized data hub
  • Establishment of a custom system that operates well with niche sources
  • Speeding up the ingestion process and increasing the auditing power
  • End-game integration to a data warehouse and other target systems

Data Modernization

Snowflake is a paradigm-shifting platform. Micro partition storage, decentralized compute, and cross-cloud sharing opens up new opportunities for companies to solve pain in their analytics processing. Our consultants at 2nd Watch are trained in the latest technologies and have the technical expertise to tackle the challenges posed by making your legacy systems “just work” in modern ecosystems like Snowflake.

Using supplemental tools like dbt or sqlDBM, this process will transform your data platform by eliminating complexities, reducing latency, generating documentation, integrating siloed sources, and unlocking the ability to scale and upgrade your existing data solutions.

Potential Deliverables

  • Migration to Snowflake from existing high-maintenance deployments
  • Refactoring, redesigning, and performance tuning of data architecture 
  • Deploying Snowpark API for integrating with Scala or Python applications 
  • Supporting modern tool selection and integration

Data Governance 

Data governance is critical to organizations hoping to achieve and maintain long-term success. Snowflake offers outstanding features such as object tagging or data classification that improve the security, quality, and value of the data. Additionally, when you work with 2nd Watch, we can help your organization establish a data governance council and program.

2nd Watch will assist you in identifying and coaching early adopters and champions. We will help with establishing roles and responsibilities (e.g., business owners, stewards, custodians), as well as creating and documenting principles, policies, processes, and standards. Finally, we will identify the right technology to help automate these processes and improve your data governance maturity level.

Potential Deliverables

  • Data governance strategy
  • Change management: identification of early adopters and champions
  • Master data management implementation
  • Data quality: data profiling, cleansing, and standardization
  • Data security and compliance (e.g., PII, HIPAA, GRC)

2nd Watch will make sure your team is equipped to make the most of your Snowflake ecosystem and analytics tools, guiding the entire process through deployment of a successful initiative. Get started with our Snowflake Value Accelerator.


Mind the Gap! The Leap from Legacy to Modern Applications 

Most businesses today have evaluated their options for application modernization. Planned movement to the cloud happened ahead of schedule, driven by the need for rapid scalability and agility in the wake of COVID-19.

Legacy applications already rehosted or replatformed in the cloud saw increased load, highlighting painful inefficiencies in scalability and sometimes even causing outages. Your business has likely already taken some first steps in app modernization and updating legacy systems. 

Of the seven options to modernize with legacy systems outlined by Gartner, 2nd Watch commonly works with clients who have already successfully rehosted and replatformed applications. To a lesser extent, we see mainframe applications encapsulated in a modern RESTful API or replaced altogether. Businesses frequently take those first steps in their digital transformation but find themselves stuck crossing the gap to a fully modern application. 

What are common issues and solutions businesses face as they move away from outdated technologies and progress towards fully modern applications? 

Keeping the Goal in Mind 

Overcoming the inertia to begin a modernization project is often a lengthy process, requiring several months or as much as a year or more to complete the first phases. Development teams require training, thorough and careful planning must occur, and unforeseen challenges are encountered and overcome. Through it all, the needs of the business never slow down, and the temptation to halt or dramatically slow legacy modernization efforts after the initial phases of modernization can be substantial. 

No matter what the end state of the modernization journey looks like, it can be helpful to keep it at the forefront of the development team’s minds. In today’s remote and hybrid working environment, that’s not as easy as keeping a whiteboard or poster in a room. Sprint ceremonies should include a brief reminder of long-term business goals, especially for backlog or sprint reviews. Keep the team invested in the business and technical reasons and the question “why modernize legacy applications” at the forefront of their minds. Most importantly, solicit their feedback on the process required to accomplish the long-term strategic goals of the business. 

With the goal firmly in your development team’s minds, it’s time to tackle tactics in migrating from legacy apps to newer systems. What are some of these common stumbling blocks on the road to refactoring and rearchitecting legacy software? 

(Related article: Rehost vs Refactor vs Replatform | AppMod Essentials) 

Refactoring 

Refactoring an application can encompass a broad set of areas. Refactoring is sometimes as straightforward as reducing technical debt, or it can be as complex as breaking apart a monolithic application into smaller services. In 2nd Watch’s experience, some common issues when refactoring running applications include: 

  • Limited knowledge of cloud-based architectural patterns.
    Even common architectures like 2- and 3-tier applications require some legacy code changes when an application has moved from a data center to a cloud service provider or among cloud service providers. Where an older application may have hardcoded IP addresses or DNS, a modern approach to accessing application tiers would use environment variables configured at runtime, pointing at load balancers. 
  • Lack of telemetry and observability.
    Development teams are frequently hesitant to make changes quickly because there are too many unknowns in their application. Proper monitoring of known unknowns (metrics) and unknown unknowns (observability) can demystify the impact of refactoring. For more context around the types of unknowns and how to work with them in an application, Charity Majors frequently writes on the topic. 
  • Lack of thorough automated tests.
    A lack of automated tests also slows the ability to make changes because developers cannot anticipate what their changes might break. Improved telemetry and observability can help, but automated testing is the other side of the equation. Tools like Codecov can initially help improve test coverage, but unless carefully attended, incentivizing a percentage of test coverage across the codebase can lead to tests that do not thoroughly cover all common use cases. Good unit tests and integration testing can halt problems before they even start. 
  • No blueprint for optimal refactoring.
    Without a clear blueprint for understanding what an optimally refactored app looks like, development and information technology teams can become frustrated or unclear about their end goals. Heroku’s Twelve-Factor App methodology is one commonly used framework for crafting or refactoring modern applications. It has the added benefit of being applicable to many deployment models – single- or multiple-server, containers, or serverless. 

Rearchitecting

Rearchitecting an application to leverage better capabilities, such as those found in a cloud service provider’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options, may present some challenges. The most common challenge 2nd Watch encounters with clients is not fully understanding the options available in modern environments. Older applications are the product of their time and typically were built optimally for the available technology and needs. However, when rearchitecting those applications, sometimes development teams either don’t know or don’t have details about better options that may be available. 

Running a MySQL database on the same machine as the rest of the monolithic application may have made sense when initially writing the application. Today, many applications can run more cheaply, more securely, and with the same or better performance using a combination of cloud storage buckets, managed caches like Redis or Memcached, and secrets managers. These consumption-based cloud options tend to be significantly cheaper than managed databases or databases running on cloud virtual machines. Scaling automatically with end-user demand and reduced management overhead are additional benefits of software modernization. 

Rearchitecting an application can also be frustrating for experienced systems administrators tasked with maintaining and troubleshooting production applications. For example, moving from VMs to containers introduces an entirely different way of dealing with logs. Sysadmins must forward them to a log aggregator instead of storing them on disk. Autoscaling a service can mean the difference between identifying which instances – of potentially dozens or hundreds – had an issue instead of a small handful of them. Application modernization impacts every person involved with the long-term success of that application, not just developers and end-users. 

Conclusion 

Application Modernization is a long-term strategic activity, not a short-term tactical activity. Over time, you will realize the benefits of the lower total cost of ownership (TCO), increased agility, and faster time to market. Recognizing and committing to the future of your business will help you overcome the short- and mid-term challenges of app modernization. 

Engaging a trusted partner to accelerate your app modernization journey and lead the charge across that gap is a powerful strategy to overcome some of the highlighted problems. It can be difficult to overcome a challenge with the same mindset that led to creating that challenge. An influx of different ideas and experiences can be the push development teams need to reach the next level for a business. 

If you’re wondering how to modernize legacy applications and are ready to work with a trusted advisor that can help you cross that gap, 2nd Watch will meet you wherever you are in your journey. Contact us to schedule a discussion of your goals, challenges, and how we can help you reach the end game of modern business applications. 

Michael Gray, 2nd Watch Senior Cloud Consultant 


Manufacturing Analytics: The Power of Data in the Manufacturing Industry

The effects of the pandemic have hit the manufacturing industry in ways no one could have predicted. During the last 18 months, a new term has come up frequently in the news and in conversation: the supply chain crisis. Manufacturers have been disrupted in almost every facet of their business, and they have been put to the test as to whether they can weather these challenges or not. 

 

Manufacturing businesses that began a digital transformation prior to the current global crisis have been more agile in handling the disruptions. That is because manufacturers using data analytics and cloud technology can be flexible in adopting the capabilities they need for important business goals, be able to identify inefficiencies more quickly and be equipped to adopt a hybrid workforce to make sure production doesn’t stall. 

The pandemic has identified and accelerated the need for manufacturers to digitize and harness the power of modern technology. Real-time data and analytics are fundamental to the manufacturing industry because they create the contextual awareness that is crucial for optimizing products and processes. This is especially important during the supply chain crisis, but this goes beyond the scope of the pandemic. Manufacturers will want to, despite the external circumstances, automate for quicker and smarter decisions in order to remain competitive and have a positive impact on the bottom line. 

In this article, we’ll identify the use cases and benefits of manufacturing analytics, which can be applied in any situation at any time. 

What is Manufacturing Analytics?

Manufacturing analytics is used to capture, process, and analyze machine, operational, and system data in order to manage and optimize production. It is used in critical functions – such as planning, quality, and maintenance – because it has the ability to predict future use, avoid failures, forecast maintenance requirements, and identify other areas for improvement. 

To improve efficiency and remain competitive in today’s market, manufacturing companies need to undergo a digital transformation to change the way their data is collected. Traditionally, manufacturers capture data in a fragmented manner: their staff manually check and record factors, fill forms, and note operation and maintenance histories for machines on the floor. These practices are susceptible to human error, and as a result, risk being highly inaccurate. Moreover, these manual processes are extremely time-consuming and open to biases. 

Manufacturing analytics solves these common issues. It collects data from connected devices, which reduces the need for manual data collection and, thereby, cuts down the labor associated with traditional documentation tasks. Additionally, its computational power removes the potential errors and biases that traditional methods are prone to. 

Because manufacturing equipment collects massive volumes of data via sensors and edge devices, the most efficient and effective way to process this data is to feed the data to a cloud-based manufacturing analytics platform. Without the power of cloud computing, manufacturers are generating huge amounts of data, but losing out on potential intelligence they have gathered. 

Cloud-based services provide a significant opportunity for manufacturers to maximize their data collection. The cloud provides manufacturers access to more affordable computational power and more advanced analytics. This enables manufacturing organizations to gather information from multiple sources, utilize machine learning models, and ultimately discover new methods to optimize their processes from beginning to end. 

Additionally, manufacturing analytics uses advanced models and algorithms to generate insights that are near-real-time and much more actionable. Manufacturing analytics powered by automated machine data collection unlocks powerful use cases for manufacturers that range from monitoring and diagnosis to predictive maintenance and process automation. 

Use Cases for Cloud-Based Manufacturing Analytics

The ultimate goal of cloud-based analytics is to transition from having descriptive to predictive practices. Rather than just simply collecting data, manufacturers want to be able to leverage their data in near-real-time to get ahead of issues with equipment and processes and to reduce costs. Below are some business use cases for automated manufacturing analytics and how they help enterprises achieve predictive power:

Demand Forecasting and Inventory Management

Manufacturers need to have complete control of their supply chain in order to better manage inventory. However, demand planning is complex. Manufacturing analytics makes this process simpler by providing near-real-time floor data to support supply chain control, which leads to improved purchase management, inventory control, and transportation. The data provides insight into the time and costs needed to build parts and run a given job, which gives manufacturers the power to more accurately estimate their needs for material to improve planning. 

Managing Supply Chains

For end-to-end visibility in the supply chain, data can be captured from materials in transit and sent straight from external vendor equipment to the manufacturing analytics platform. Manufacturers can then manage their supply chains from a central hub of data collection that organizes and distributes the data to all stakeholders. This enables manufacturing companies to direct and redirect resources to speed up or down. 

Price Optimization

In order to optimize pricing strategies and create accurate cost models, manufacturers need exact timelines and costs. Having an advanced manufacturing analytics platform can help manufacturers determine accurate cycle times to ensure prices are appropriately set. 

Product Development

To remain competitive, manufacturing organizations must invest in research and development (R&D) to build new product lines, improve existing models, and introduce new services. Manufacturing analytics makes it possible for this process to be simulated, rather than using traditional iterative modeling. This reduces R&D costs greatly because real-life conditions can be replicated virtually to predict performance. 

Robotization

Manufacturers are relying more on robotics. As these robots become more intelligent and independent, the data they collect while they execute their duties will increase. This valuable data can be used within a cloud-based manufacturing analytics platform to really control quality at the micro-level. 

Computer Vision Applications

Modern automated quality control harnesses advanced optical devices. These devices can collect information via temperature, optics, and other advanced vision applications (like thermal detection) to precisely control stops.

Fault Prediction and Preventative Maintenance

Using near-real-time data, manufacturers can predict the likelihood of a breakdown – and when it may happen – with confidence. This is much more effective than traditional preventive maintenance programs that are use-based or time-based. Manufacturing analytics’s accuracy to predict when and how a machine will break down allows technicians to perform optimal repairs that reduce overall downtime and increase productivity. 

Warranty Analysis

It’s important to analyze information from failed products to understand how products are withstanding the test of time. With manufacturing analytics, products can be improved or changed to reduce failure and therefore costs. Collecting warranty data can also shed light on the use (and misuse) of products, increase product safety, improve repair procedures, reduce repair times, and improve warranty service. 

Benefits of Manufacturing Analytics

In short, cloud-based manufacturing analytics provides awareness and learnings on a near-real-time basis. For manufacturers to be competitive, contextual awareness is crucial for optimizing product development, quality, and costs. Production equipment generates huge volumes of data, and manufacturing analytics allows manufacturers to leverage this data stream to improve productivity and profitability. Here are the tangible benefits and results of implementing manufacturing analytics:

Full Transparency and Understanding of the Supply Chain

In today’s environment, owning the supply chain has never been more critical. Data analytics can help mitigate the challenges that have cropped up with the current supply chain crisis. For manufacturing businesses, this means having the right number of resources. Data analytics allows manufacturers to remain as lean as possible, which is especially important in today’s global climate. Organizations need to use data analytics to ensure they have the right amount of material and optimize their supply chains during a time when resources are scarce and things are uncertain. 

Reduced Costs

Manufacturing analytics reveals insights that can be used to optimize processes, which leads to cost savings. Predictive maintenance programs decrease downtime and manage parts inventories more intelligently, limiting costs and increasing productivity. Robotics and machine learning reduce labor and the associated costs. 

Increased Revenue

Manufacturers must be dynamic in responding to demand fluctuations. Near-real-time manufacturing analytics allows companies to be responsive to ever-changing demands. At any given time, manufacturing companies have up-to-date insights into inventory, product, and supply chains, allowing them to adjust to demand accordingly in order to maintain delivery times. 

Improved Efficiency Across the Board

The amount of information that product equipment collects enables manufacturers to increase efficiency in a variety of ways. This includes reducing energy consumption, mitigating compliance errors, and controlling the supply chain. 

Greater Customer Satisfaction

At the end of the day, it is important to know what customers want. Data analytics is a crucial tool in collecting data from customer feedback, which can be applied to streamlining the process per the customer’s requirements. Manufacturers can analyze the data collected to determine how to personalize services for their consumers, thereby, increasing customer satisfaction. 

Conclusion

The effects of COVID-19 have shaken up the manufacturing industry. Because of the pandemic’s disruptions, manufacturers are realizing the importance of robust tools – like cloud computing and data analytics – to remain agile, lean, and flexible regardless of external challenges. The benefits that organizations can reap from these technologies go far beyond the horizon of the current supply chain crisis. Leading manufacturers are using data from systems across the organization to increase efficiency, drive innovation, and improve overall performance in any environment.

2nd Watch’s experience managing and optimizing data means we understand industry-specific data and systems. Our manufacturing data analytics solutions and consultants can assist you in building and implementing a strategy that will help your organization modernize, innovate, and outperform the competition. Learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how we can help you gain deep insight into your manufacturing data!


How to Choose the Best Cloud Service Provider for your Application Modernization Strategy

If the global pandemic taught us anything, it’s that digital transformation is a must-have for businesses to keep up with customer demands and remain competitive. To do this, organizations are moving their workloads to and modernizing their applications for the cloud faster than ever.

In fact, according to a recent survey, 91% of respondents agree or strongly agree that application modernization plays a critical role in their organization’s adaptability to rapidly changing business conditions. But there are so many cloud service providers to choose from! How do you know which one is best for your application modernization objectives? Keep reading to find out!  

What is a Cloud Services Provider (CSP)? 

A cloud services provider is a cloud computing company that provides public clouds, managed private clouds, or on-demand cloud infrastructures, platforms, and services. Many CSPs are available worldwide, including Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. However, three industry giants are noteworthy because of their services and global footprint: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure. 

What is Application Modernization? 

Application modernization is the process of revamping an application to take advantage of breakthrough technical innovations to improve the overall efficiency of the application remarkably. This efficiency typically involves high availability, increased fault tolerance, high scalability, improved security, eliminating a single point of failure, disaster recovery, contemporary and simplified tools, new coding language, and reduced resource requirements, among other benefits. Many companies running legacy applications are now looking at how they can best modernize their monolith applications. 

Application Rationalization: The First Step to Modernization 

The best way to start any application modernization journey is with application rationalization. In this process, you identify company-wide business applications and strategically determine which ones you should keep, replace, retire, or consolidate. Once you identify those applications, you can list each one’s ease or difficulty level, total cost of ownership (TCO), and business value, enabling you to decide and prioritize which action to take. (Hint: Start with high value and minimal effort apps!) Doing this will also help you eliminate redundancies, lower costs, and maximize efficiency. 

The high-value apps that are difficult to move to the cloud will likely cause the most grief in your decision-making process. But, like Rome, your modernization strategy doesn’t need to be built in a day.

You can develop an approach to application modernization over time and still reduce costs and risks while moving your portfolio forward.  

It is crucial to evaluate your current application stack and determine the most suitable application modernization strategy to migrate to the cloud when it comes to application modernization in the cloud. Many on-premises applications are legacy monoliths that may benefit more from refactoring than a rehosting (“lift and shift”) approach. (Check out Rehost, Refactor, Replatform – What, When, & Why? | AppMod Essentials) 

Refactoring may require overhauling your application code, which takes some high-level effort but offers the most benefits. However, not all applications are ideal candidates for refactoring. Rearchitecting will become necessary for some obsolete applications that are not compatible with the cloud due to architectural designs made while building the app. In this scenario, the value proposition considers rearchitecting, dividing the application into several functional components that can be individually adapted and further developed. These small, independent pieces—or “microservices”—can then be migrated to the cloud quickly and efficiently. 

Determining the Best Cloud Services Provider for Your Application Modernization 

Each application modernization journey is unique, as is the process of choosing the best cloud service provider that meets your demands. What works for one business’ application may not be the best for yours, even if they are in the same industry. And just because a competitor has chosen one CSP over another does not mean you should. 

When evaluating the CSP that is best for you, consider the following: 

Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Determine if the CSP’s service level agreements suit your production workloads, whether the cloud service is generally available yet, and they retain satisfactory levels of support knowledge. Managing workloads in the cloud can sometimes be tedious. The managed services department may not have the required expertise to efficiently manage and monitor the cloud environment. It is critical to your business to do your due diligence to ensure your preferred CSP can administer their managed offerings with as close to zero downtime as possible. 

  • Vendor Lock-in: It is important to have alternatives to any single CSP and that you retain the flexibility to substitute for a better value proposition. 
  • Enterprise Adoption: Consider the likelihood of scalability of your use of the CSP across your organization. 
  • Economic Impact: Consider the positive business or financial impacts that result from the service usage at the individual, department, and company-wide levels. 
  • Automation and Deployment: Verify the CSP’s integration capabilities with your organization’s preferred automation tooling and availability of automated and local testing frameworks.  

CSP Application Modernization Design Considerations 

When modernizing existing applications to take the best advantage of the cloud, cloud technologies like serverless and containers are good options to consider. Serverless computing and containers are cloud-native tools that automate code deployment into isolated environments. Developers can build highly scalable applications with fewer resources within a short time. They both also reduce overhead for cloud-hosted web applications but differ in many ways. Private cloud, hybrid cloud, and multi-cloud approaches to application modernization are worth considering too. 

Serverless Computing and Containers 

Serverless computing is an exaction model where the CSP executes a piece of code by dynamically allocating the resources and can only charge for the services used to run the code. Code is typically run in stateless containers. Various events such as HTTP requests, monitoring alerts, database events, queuing services, file uploads, scheduled events (cron jobs), and more can trigger them.

 

The cloud service provider then receives the code in a function to execute, which is why serverless computing is sometimes referred to as a Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) platform. Add that to your list of as-a-Service acronyms: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, FaaS!   

The FaaS offerings of the three major CSPs are: 

Containers provide a discrete environment set up within an operating system. They can run one or more applications, typically assigned only those resources necessary for the application to function correctly. Because containers are smaller and faster than virtual machines, they allow applications to run quickly and reliably among various computing environments. Container images become containers at runtime and include everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries, and settings. 

Private, Hybrid, and Multi-Cloud 

The public cloud is a vital part of any modernization strategy. However, some organizations may not be ready to go directly to the public cloud from the datacenter. Cloud architects should consider private, hybrid, and multi-cloud strategies in those cases. These models can help resolve any architectural, security, or latency concerns. They will also reduce the complexity associated with the policies for specific workloads based on their unique characteristics.  

Conclusion 

Migration to the cloud is ideal for investing in application modernization as it can lower your overall operational costs and increase your application’s resiliency. But not all use cases—nor cloud service providers—are the same. You need to do your homework before choosing the best-suited one for your business.  

2nd Watch offers a comprehensive consulting methodology and proven tools to accelerate your cloud-native and app modernization objectives. Our modernization process begins with a complete assessment of your existing application portfolio to identify which you should keep, replace, retire, or consolidate. We then develop and implement a modernization strategy that best meets your business needs.

From application rationalization to application modernization and beyond, 2nd Watch is your go-to trusted advisor throughout your entire modernization journey. 

Contact us to schedule a brief meeting with our specialists to discuss your current modernization objectives. 

By Alex Ifebigh, 2nd Watch Sr. Cloud Consultant 

 


Rehost vs Refactor vs Replatform | AppMod Essentials

Migrating workloads or an application to the cloud can seem daunting for any organization. The cloud is synonymous with industry buzzwords such as DevOps, digital transformation, opensource, and more. As of 2021, AWS has over 200 products and services.

Nowadays, every other LinkedIn post is somehow related to the cloud. Sound familiar? Maybe a bit intimidating? If so, you are not alone! Organizations often hope that operating in the cloud will help them become more agile, enhance business continuity, or reduce technical debt. All of which are achievable in a cloud environment with proper planning. 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This sentiment is true not only in life but also in technology. Any successful IT project has a strategy and tangible business outcomes. Project managers must establish these before any “actual work” begins. Without this, leadership teams may not know if the project is on task and on schedule. Technical teams may struggle to determine where to start or what to prioritize. Here we’ll explore industry-standard strategies that organizations can deploy to begin their cloud journey and help technical leaders decide which path to take. 

What is Cloud Migration? 

Cloud migration is when an organization decides to move its data, applications, or other IT capabilities into a cloud service provider (CSP) such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Microsoft Azure. Some organizations may decide to migrate all IT assets into the cloud; however, most organizations keep some services on-premises in a hybrid environment for various reasons. Performing a migration to the cloud may consist of multiple CSPs or even a private cloud. 

What Are the Different Strategies for Cloud Migration? 

Gartner recognizes five cloud migration strategies, nicknamed “The 5Rs.” Individually they are called rehost, refactor, revise (a.k.a. replatform), rebuild, and replace, each with benefits and drawbacks. This blog focuses on three of those five migration approaches—rehost, refactor, and replatform—as they play a significant role in application modernization. 

What is Rehost in the Cloud?

Rehost, or “lift and shift,” is the process of migrating a workload into the cloud as-is without any modifications. Rehosting usually involves infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) technologies in a cloud provider such as AWS EC2 or Azure VM’s. Organizations with little cloud experience may consider this strategy because it is an easy start to their cloud journey. Cloud service providers are constantly creating new services for rehosting to make the process even easier. This strategy is less complex, so the timeline to complete a rehost migration can be significantly shorter than other strategies. Organizations often rehost workloads and then modernize after gaining more cloud knowledge and experience. 

Rehosting Pros:

  • No architecture changes – Organizations can migrate workloads as-is, which benefits those with little cloud experience. 
  • Fastest migration method – Rehosting is often the quickest path to the cloud. This method is an excellent advantage for organizations that need to vacate an on-premises data center or colocation. 
  • Organizational changes are not necessary – Organizational processes and strategies to manage workloads can remain the same since architectures are not changing. Organizations will need to learn new tools for the selected cloud provider, but the day-to-day tasks will not change.  

  Rehosting Cons: 

  • High costs – Monthly spending will quickly add up in the cloud without modernizing applications. Organizations must budget appropriately for rehosting migrations. 
  • Lack of innovation – Rehosting does not take advantage of the variety of innovative and modern technologies available in the cloud.  
  • Does not improve the customer experience – Without change, applications cannot improve, which means customers will have a similar experience in the cloud. 

What Refactor Means?

Use the refactoring technique to update and optimize applications for the cloud. Refactoring often involves “app modernization” or updating the application’s existing code to take full advantage of cloud features and flexibility. This strategy can be complex because it requires source code changes and introduces modern technologies to the organization. These changes will need to be thoroughly tested and optimized, leading to possible delays. Therefore, organizations should take small steps by refactoring one or two modules at a time to correct issues and gaps at a smaller scale. Although refactoring may be the most time-consuming, it can provide the best return on investment (ROI) once complete.  

Refactoring Pros: 

  • Cost reduction – Since applications are being optimized for the cloud, refactoring can provide the highest ROI and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO). 
  • More flexible application architectures – Refactoring allows application owners the opportunity to explore the landscape of services available in the cloud and decide which ones fit best. 
  • Increased resiliency – technologies and concepts like auto-scaling, immutable infrastructure, and automation can increase application resiliency and reliability. Organizations should consider all of these when refactoring. 

Refactoring Cons:

  • A lot of change – Technology and cultural changes can be brutally painful. Cloud migrations often combine both, which compounds the pain. Add the complexity of refactoring, and you may have full-blown mutiny without careful planning and strong leadership. Refactoring migrations are not for the faint of heart, so tread lightly. 
  • Advanced cloud knowledge and experience are needed – Organizations lacking cloud experience may find it challenging to refactor applications by themselves. Organizations may consider using a consulting firm to address skillset gaps. 
  • Lengthy project timelines – Refactoring hundreds of applications doesn’t happen overnight. Organizations need to establish realistic timelines before starting a refactor migration. 

What is Replatform in Cloud?

Replatforming is a happy medium between refactoring and rehosting and applies a series of changes to the application to fit the cloud better without rearchitecting the whole thing versus completely overhauling the application as you would expect from refactoring. Replatforming projects often involve rearchitecting the database to a more cloud-native solution, adding scaling mechanisms, or containerizing applications. 

Replatorming Pros:

  • Reduces cost – If organizations take cost-savings measures during replatforming, they will see a reduction in technical operating expenses. 
  • Acceptable compromise – Replatforming is considered a happy medium of adding features and technical capabilities without jeopardizing migration timelines. 
  • Adds cloud-native features – Replatforming can add cloud technologies like auto-scaling, managed storage services, infrastructure as code (IaC), and more. These capabilities can reduce costs and improve customer experience. 

Replatforming Cons:

  • Scope creep may occur – Organizations may struggle to draw a line in the sand when replatforming. It can be challenging to decide which cloud technologies to prioritize. 
  • Limits the amount of change that can occur – Everything cannot be accomplished at once when replatforming. Technical leaders must decide what can be done given the migration timeline then add the remaining items to a backlog. 
  • Cloud and automation skills needed – Organizations lacking cloud experience may struggle replatforming workloads by themselves. 

Which cloud migration strategy is best for your organization? 

As stated above, it is essential to have clear business objectives for your organization’s cloud migration. Just as important is establishing a timeline for the migration. Both will help technical leaders and application owners decide which strategy is best. Below are some common goals organizations have for migrating to the cloud. 

Common business goals for cloud migrations:

  • Reduce technical debt 
  • Improve customer’s digital experience 
  • Become more agile to respond to change faster 
  • Ensure business continuity 
  • Evacuate on-premises data centers and colocations 
  • Create a culture of automation 

Determining the best migration strategy is key to getting the most out of the cloud and meeting your business objectives. It is common for organizations to use all three of these strategies in tandem and often work with trusted advisors like 2nd Watch to determine and implement the best. When planning your cloud migration strategy, consider these questions:  

Cloud Migration Strategy Considerations:

  • Is there a hard date for migrating the application? 
  • How long will it take to modernize? 
  • What are the costs for “lift and shift,” refactoring, and/or replatforming? 
  • When is the application being retired? 
  • Can the operational team(s) support modern architectures? 

Conclusion 

In today’s world, the cloud is where the most innovation in technology occurs. Companies that want to be a part of modern technology advancements should seriously consider migrating to the cloud. Organizations can achieve successful cloud migrations with the right strategy, clear business goals, and proper skillsets. 

2nd Watch is an AWS Premier Partner, Google Cloud Partner, and Microsoft Gold partner, providing professional and managed cloud services to enterprises. Our subject matter experts and software-enabled services provide you with tested, proven, and trusted solutions in all aspects of cloud migration and application modernization.  

Contact us to schedule a discussion on how we can help you achieve your 2022 cloud modernization objectives. 

By Jacob Acton, 2nd Watch Cloud Consultant 


4 Must-Have Steps to Application Modernization Success

To be successful in today’s landscape, organizations must deliver memorable customer experiences, demonstrate innovation, and be adaptable to the constant shifts of the marketplace. Embracing cloud technology is imperative to achieve these high levels of scalability and agility while minimizing current and future technical debt. However, moving to the cloud is only one (albeit significant) component of modernizing a business’s applications. Application modernization is a must.

Application modernization is when you take existing legacy applications and digitally transform their platform infrastructure, internal architecture, and/or features. It’s going from tightly-coupled systems with various dependencies to loosely-coupled ones that improve application scalability, resilience, and extensibility. The goal of application modernization is to create a more agile, flexible, and highly available application environment.

However, simply lifting and shifting complex monolithic applications to a public cloud service provider is not equivalent to becoming a modern enterprise. Migrating to the cloud can help speed up innovation, but if businesses do not build cloud-native applications, they are simply moving workloads. To maximize the benefits of the cloud and become a modern business, organizations must strive to be cloud-native.

Why is migration to the cloud necessary for application modernization?

One of the top reasons to migrate to the cloud is to increase business agility, velocity, and scalability. Companies also enjoy increased productivity and efficiency of their workforce when they utilize cloud infrastructure. The cloud enables organizations to digitally transform their business with modern technologies and reestablish their applications within a modern framework.

When a business migrates to the cloud, that shouldn’t be considered the “finish line” in its modernization journey. The cloud is a means to an enterprise’s modernization efforts. An organization also has to update its culture and processes to enable high-performing software development if it is truly looking to modernize its application environment.

Why is application modernization necessary?

The bottom line is that modernizing applications will generate more business. Refusing to update infrastructure, technology, applications, and approaches to software development will place a company significantly behind in a race where there are very responsive and innovative competitors. Enterprises that were not born digital must evolve quickly to stay afloat in today’s ultra-demanding landscape.

Application modernization is not simply a survival tactic, but it is also a crucial method to achieve business agility. Digital transformation offers some of the following measurable outcomes and benefits to a company:

Optimize costs and resources

Modernizing applications utilizing cloud service providers can save businesses money. Planning a cloud migration can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO), allowing organizations to focus on their core business and missions rather than expending energy on managing servers and on-premise infrastructures.

Additionally, by using cloud platforms, enterprises have access to a variety of robust services and automation tools that will eventually result in noticeable savings and cost optimization both of time and money. Deploying enterprise solutions via a cloud service provider allows organizations to retire expensive legacy infrastructure, reduce time and fiduciary costs, experience agility through automation, and reallocate resources towards other imperative business needs.

Mitigate risk

Staying up to date with compliance and security standards is non-negotiable. Modernization enables companies to support mandated and critical changes such as regulatory compliance in a punctual manner. Enterprises can use modernization initiatives to invest in technology and process improvements necessary for security requirements.

Work with a trusted and experienced cloud partner

The migration process to the cloud requires working with a provider who has experience in retiring legacy systems and emerging technologies to migrate databases, servers, and data. Working with a cloud service provider and/or a cloud advisory firm enables businesses to modernize their applications smoothly. Cloud partners provide access to the vital tools and knowledge needed to digitally transform a business. Harnessing the power of cloud-native firms can improve operational efficiency, increase scalability, and improve the overall performance of an organization.

What are the steps of application modernization?

For most enterprises, app modernization is the clear path forward. The question is not whether to modernize but “what” and “how” to modernize. To answer these crucial questions about their legacy applications, organizations need to understand their modernization options and have a deep insight into their applications.

Application modernization is much more than simply migrating to cloud-based workloads. It is the total transformation of an organization’s culture, tools, and processes. Below is a step-by-step strategy for continuous application modernization:

#1: Create Goals for Modernization

Goals will always be the foundation of any strong strategy. Without goals, measuring the success of modernization efforts will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. You have to detail your goals for app modernization and link modernization efforts to measurable business outcomes. For example, greater agility and faster time-to-market with new features can show progress and success as a business embarks on its modernization journey.

Organizations should identify the highest priority and most critical applications to kick off the goal-setting process. From there, they should analyze how the company would benefit from increased reliability, scalability, and performance by leveraging their cloud service provider. Areas of impact can include revenue, market share churn, profitability, and more.

After an enterprise has clearly defined how current applications will impact their business success, they can then tie modernization objectives and priorities back to business outcomes.

#2: Understand Your Applications

Before a business can transform its applications, it must recognize its starting point. An organization should take a baseline measurement to understand how its applications are performing. This baseline allows businesses to identify and prioritize the best approach to application modernization for each app and will serve as the foundation for creating the road map for application modernization.

Companies must invest in an observability platform to aggregate, correlate and analyze performance data. Without this, they cannot make data-driven decisions because there is no true understanding of how an application is currently functioning and if modernization is improving it. Observability allows enterprises to capture data about each application to help understand their specific characteristics. This objective and holistic view of applications empowers organizations to decide how to best modernize an application.

#3: Determine the Optimal Modernization Approach for Each Application

After setting goals and collecting data, companies are ready to make data-driven decisions on modernizing their applications. There are three approaches to app modernization: rehosting, replatforming, and refactoring.

Rehosting entails shifting an application to a more modern environment, such as the cloud, to reap cost savings, performance improvements, and ease of operations. The changes only pertain to rehosting; therefore, this approach’s risk and impact are low.

Replatforming is when companies move an application and modify some infrastructure elements for time and resource-saving purposes. Replatforming requires taking an existing component of an application and moving it to a managed service with no changes to business logic. The risk is still low because of infrastructure modifications, but the impact is medium.

Refactoring requires businesses to re-architect an application to optimize and realize the full benefits of cloud services, architectures, and technologies. It allows for improved quality, performance, and the rapid delivery of innovative new features. Re-architecting applications require making code-level changes, so the risk of refactoring is high but ultimately yields a more significant impact.

#4: Observe and Optimize

Taking a baseline measurement in step two gives companies the data to make informed decisions and serves as a comparison during and after modernization efforts. Once the first modernization iteration is complete, organizations can track their goals and demonstrate success by comparing the previous baseline against current performance and other KPIs, such as business outcome data and customer experience. The hope is to see improvements and identify additional modernization opportunities to achieve peak cloud optimization.

Modernization is continuous

The strategy, as mentioned above, is a never-ending process and should be repeated. There will always be new tools and capabilities for companies to discover, incorporate, and support throughout app modernization.

Each iteration of modernization is an opportunity for enterprises to embrace digital transformation holistically. An application modernization strategy is not simply lifting and shifting platforms; it also reshapes an organization’s culture and processes necessary for truly modernizing a business.

2nd Watch offers a comprehensive consulting methodology and proven tools to accelerate your cloud-native and app modernization objectives. Our modernization process begins with a complete assessment of your existing application portfolio to identify which you should keep, replace, retire, or consolidate. We then develop and implement a modernization strategy that best meets your business needs. From application rationalization to application modernization to DevOps transformation and beyond, 2nd Watch is your go-to partner throughout your entire modernization journey.

Contact us to schedule a brief meeting with our specialists to discuss your current modernization objectives.

By Mary Ellen Cavanagh, 2nd Watch Sr. Solutions Marketing Manager, AppMod & DevOps


Amazon Web Services (AWS) Outage Constitutes Multi-Region Infrastructure

When Amazon’s cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), suffered an outage on December 7, 2021, the magnitude of the event was felt globally. What happened, and how can your business learn from this significant outage?

Why was there an AWS outage?

Reported issues within the AWS infrastructure began around 12:00 ET/17:00 GMT on Dec. 7, according to data from real-time outage monitoring service DownDetector.

Amazon reported that the “US-East-1” region went down in North Virginia on Tuesday, which disrupted Amazon’s own applications and multiple third-party services that also rely on AWS. The issue was an “impairment of several network devices” that resulted in several API errors and ultimately, impacted many critical AWS services.

What were the effects of the AWS outage?

The effects of the AWS outage were massive because any problem affecting Amazon impacts hundreds of millions of end-users. AWS constitutes 41% of the global cloud-computing business, and many of the largest companies in the world are dependent on AWS’s cloud computing services. These businesses rent computing, storage, and network capabilities from AWS, which means the outage prevented end-users ‘ access to a variety of sites and apps across the Internet.

The major websites and apps that suffered from the outage are ones we turn to on a daily basis: Xfinity, Venmo, Google, and Disney+, just to name a few.

On Tuesday morning, users were reporting that they couldn’t log on to a variety of vital accounts. Most of us were going through our normal daily routine of checking the news, our financial accounts, or our Amazon orders, only to frustratingly realize that we couldn’t do so. 

With so many large organizations relying on AWS, when the outage occurred, it felt like the entire Internet went down. 

Benefits of a High Availability Multi-Region Cloud Application Architecture

Even though the outage was a major headache, it serves as an important lesson for those who are relying on a cloud-based infrastructure. As they say, you should learn from mistakes.

So how can your business mitigate, or even avoid, the effects of a major failure within your cloud provider?

At 2nd Watch, we are in favor of a high availability multi-region cloud approach. We advise our clients to build out multi-region application architecture not only because it will support your mission-critical services during an outage, but also because it will make your applications more resilient and improve your end-user experiences by keeping latencies low for a distributed

user base. Below is how we think about a multi-region cloud approach and why we believe it is a strong strategy

1. Increase your Fault Tolerance

Fault tolerance is the ability of a system to endure some kind of failure and continue to operate properly. 

Unfortunately, things happen that are beyond our control (i.e. natural disasters) or things slip through the cracks (i.e. human error), which can impact a data center, an availability zone, or an entire region. However, just because a failure happens doesn’t mean an outage has to happen.

By architecting a multi-region application structure, if there is a regional failure similar to AWS’s east region failure, your company can avoid a complete outage. Having a multi-region architecture grants your business the redundancy required to increase availability and resiliency, ensure business continuity, and support disaster recovery plans.

2. Lower latency requirements for your worldwide customer base

The benefits of a multi-region approach go beyond disaster recovery and business continuity. By adopting a multi-region application architecture, your company can deliver low latency by keeping data closer to all of your users, even those who are across the globe.

In an increasingly impatient world, keeping latency low is vital for a good user experience, and the only way to maintain low latency is to keep your users close to the data.

3. Comply with Data Privacy Laws & Regulations

“Are you GDPR compliant?” is a question you probably hear frequently. Hopefully, your business is, and you want to remain that way. With a multi-region architecture, you can ensure that you are storing data within the legal boundaries. Also, with signs that there will be more regulations each year, you will stay a step ahead with data compliance if you utilize a multi-region approach.

How Can I Implement a Multi-Region Infrastructure Deployment Solution?

A multi-region cloud approach is a proactive way to alleviate potential headaches and grow your business, but without guidance, it can seem daunting in terms of adoption strategy, platform selection, and cost modeling. 

2nd Watch helps you mitigate the risks of potential public cloud outages and deploy a multi-region cloud infrastructure. Through our Cloud Advisory Services, we serve as your trusted advisor for answering key questions, defining strategy, managing change, and providing impartial advice for a wide range of organizational, process, and technical issues critical to successful cloud modernization.

Contact us today to discuss a multi-region application architecture for your business needs!


6 Cloud Consulting Services Benefit your Organization’s Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud computing is a complex process that requires proper planning and continuous management. Whether you are just getting started with the cloud or have been in the cloud for years, you might find yourself asking questions regarding running your cloud infrastructure. Which cloud provider is best for my organization? Should I have one or more public cloud providers? How will I ensure financial transparency and efficiency in the cloud? To tackle these questions, there are a variety of cloud consulting services that make these challenges much easier to overcome for a successful cloud journey.

What is cloud consulting?

 For any business, getting expert advice guides operations and efficiency for a business to expand. With the cloud as a relatively newer concept for many businesses, a cloud expert is essential to ensure cloud efficiency.

A cloud consultant is someone who specializes in the cloud and can help answer questions, recommend clients with the right architecture that meets their client’s business needs, and can even maintain the cloud applications for their clients. By engaging in cloud consulting services, any questions you have about the cloud can be answered by an expert so you can ensure you are taking an approach that uses the cloud to its full potential. For example, a cloud consultant can recommend the cloud platform that suites your business needs or recommend a hybrid cloud solution.

Cloud consulting service types 

Cloud consulting services vary from one company to another, and there are different services and cloud solutions for different business needs. Although cloud services may vary depending on who your cloud consultant is, we like to break up our services into six different categories.

  • Cloud Advisory: If you are considering a transition to the cloud, cloud advisory services help answer key questions, define strategy, manage change within your organization, and provide impartial advice for a wide range of organizational, process, and technical issues related to cloud modernization.
  • Cloud Migration: When making a transition to the public cloud, there are many different aspects to consider for a successful migration. A cloud consultant can formulate a holistic migration strategy, whether you are migrating an individual workload or an entire data center.
  • Application Modernization & DevOps: A DevOps transformation provides your company and team members with tools and strategy for modernizing your applications. This can be as simple as helping your organization identify strengths and opportunities through an assessment or can include a fully managed DevOps pipeline with ongoing cultural guidance.
  • Data & Analytics: According to a 2nd Watch survey of 150 enterprises, 57% of organizations do not have the analytics expertise necessary to meet business needs. Data and analytics services transforms your organization to be data driven. If you are just starting out in the cloud or are interested in utilizing data, a cloud consultant can help implement an initial set of analytic processes. If your organization is more mature when it comes to data, a cloud consultant can design, build, or enhance your analytic architecture.
  • Compliance, Security, & Business Continuity: Security should be a top priority at every layer of your cloud environment, yet many businesses do not prioritize the security and compliance required when running a cloud environment. A cloud advisor can provide services that monitor your cloud environment 24/7 so that you do not have to.
  • Cloud Operations & Optimization: Optimization ensures your cloud environments are running as efficiently as possible. Handing that responsibility over to a cloud consulting firm helps your organization maximize the performance and returns of your cloud assets.

What are the benefits of cloud consulting?

 Upfront, the working with a cloud consulting firm may seem costly, but the benefits reaped from working with the right cloud consultant greatly justifies the associated costs. Some of the resulting benefits include:

  • Knowledge: Working with a cloud consultant for will give your organization the advisory needed to confidently go about your cloud adoption and journey.
  • Efficiency: Handing over some of the tasks needed to run your environments to a cloud consultant can reduce your time managing the cloud and increase organizational efficiency to drive business outcomes.
  • Reduced Costs: Cloud experts will set up your cloud infrastructure in the most efficient way possible to save your organization from unnecessary cloud spending. Additionally, hiring a cloud consulting company reduces the need for a fully staffed IT department.
  • Enhanced Security: Managing a public cloud infrastructure requires continuous security and compliance to ensure the safety of your data. Working with a cloud consulting firm allows your infrastructure to be managed 24/7.

Consult with 2nd Watch

Cloud has the potential to revolutionize business, but without guidance, it can prompt some daunting decisions in terms of adoption strategy, platform selection, and cost modeling. At 2nd watch, we have the expert knowledge to advise you on these topics and help you get started with your cloud journey. Beyond our planning phases, our team can help you with the migration, optimization, and transformation of your cloud environment . Contact us to learn more or to take your next steps.

-Tessa Foley, Marketing


Datacenter Migration to the Cloud: Why Your Business Should Do it and How to Plan for it

Datacenter migration is ideal for businesses who are looking to exit or reduce on-premises datacenters, migrate workloads as is, modernize apps, or leave another cloud. Executing migrations, however, is no small task, and as a result, there are many enterprise workloads that still run in on-premises datacenters. Often technology leaders want to migrate more of their workloads and infrastructure to a private or public cloud, but they are turned off by the seemingly complex processes and strategies involved in cloud migration or lack the internal cloud skills necessary to make the transition.

 

Though datacenter migration can be a daunting business initiative, the benefits of moving to the cloud are well worth the effort, and the challenges of the migration process can be mitigated by creating a strategy, using the correct tools, and utilizing professional services. Datacenter migration provides a great opportunity to revise, rethink, and improve an organization’s IT architecture. It also ultimately impacts business-critical drivers such as reducing capital expenditure, decreasing ongoing cost, improving scalability and elasticity, improving time-to-market, enacting digital transformation, and attaining improvements in security and compliance.

What are Common Datacenter Migration Challenges?

To ensure a seamless and successful migration to the cloud, businesses should be aware of the potential complexities and risks associated with a datacenter migration. The complexities and risks are addressable, and if addressed properly, organizations can create not only an optimal environment for their migration project, but provide the launch point for business transformation.

Not Understanding Workloads

While cloud platforms are touted as flexible, it is a service-oriented resource and should be treated as such. To be successful in cloud deployment, organizations need to be aware of performance, compatibility, performance requirements (including hardware, software, and IOPS), required software, and adaptability to changes in their workloads. Teams need to run their cloud workloads on the cloud service that is best aligned with the needs of the application and the business.

Not Understanding Licensing

Cloud marketplaces allow businesses to easily “rent” software at an hourly rate. Though the ease of this purchase is enticing, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only option out there. Not all large vendors offer licensing mobility for all applications outside the operating system. In fact, companies should leverage existing relationships with licensing brokers. Just because a business is migrating to the cloud doesn’t mean that a business should abandon existing licensing channels. Organizations should familiarize themselves with their choices for licensing to better maximize ROI.

Not Looking for Opportunities to Incorporate PaaS

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model where a cloud service provider delivers hardware and software tools to users over the internet versus a build-it-yourself Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model. The PaaS provider abstracts everything—servers, networks, storage, operating system software, databases, development tools—enabling teams to focus on their application. This enables PaaS customers to build, test, deploy, run, update and scale applications more quickly and inexpensively than they could if they had to build out and manage an IaaS environment on top of their application. While businesses shouldn’t feel compelled to rewrite all their network configurations and operating environments, they should see where they can have quick PaaS wins to replace aging systems.

Not Proactively Preparing for Cloud Migration

Building a new datacenter is a major IT event and usually goes hand-in-hand with another significant business event, such as an acquisition, or outgrowing the existing datacenter. In the case of moving to a new on-premises datacenter, the business will slow down as the company takes on a physical move. Migrating to the cloud is usually not coupled with an eventful business change, and as a result, business does not stop when a company chooses to migrate to the cloud. Therefore, a critical part of cloud migration success is designing the whole process as something that can run along with other IT changes that occur on the same timeline. Application teams frequently adopt cloud deployment practices months before their systems actually migrate to the cloud. By doing so, the team is ready before their infrastructure is even prepared, which makes cloud migration a much smoother event. Combining cloud events with other changes in this manner will maximize a company’s ability to succeed.

Treating and Running the Cloud Environment Like Traditional Datacenters

It seems obvious that cloud environments should be treated differently from traditional datacenters, but this is actually a common pitfall for organizations to fall in. For example, preparing to migrate to the cloud should not include traditional datacenter services, like air conditioning, power supply, physical security, and other datacenter infrastructure, as a part of the planning. Again, this may seem very obvious, but if a business is used to certain practices, it can be surprisingly difficult to break entrenched mindsets and processes.

How to Plan for a Datacenter Migration

While there are potential challenges associated with datacenter migration, the benefits of moving from physical infrastructures, enterprise datacenters, and/or on-premises data storage systems to a cloud datacenter or a hybrid cloud system is well worth the effort.

Now that we’ve gone over the potential challenges of datacenter migration, how do businesses enable a successful datacenter migration while effectively managing risk?

Below, we’ve laid out a repeatable high-level migration strategy that is broken down into four phases: Discovery, Planning, Execution, and Optimization. By leveraging a repeatable framework as such, organizations create the opportunity to identify assets, minimize migration costs and risks using a multi-phased migration approach, enable deployment and configuration, and finally, optimize the end state.

Phase 1: Discovery

During the Discovery phase, companies should understand and document the entire datacenter footprint. This means understanding the existing hardware mapping, software applications, storage layers (databases, file shares), operating systems, networking configurations, security requirements, models of operation (release cadence, how to deploy, escalation management, system maintenance, patching, virtualization, etc.), licensing and compliance requirements, as well as other relevant assets.

The objective of this phase is to have a detailed view of all relevant assets and resources of the current datacenter footprint.

The key milestones in the Discovery phase are:

  • Creating a shared datacenter inventory footprint: Every team and individual who is a part of the datacenter migration to the cloud should be aware of the assets and resources that will go live.
  • Sketching out an initial cloud platform foundations design: This involves identifying centralized concepts of the cloud platform organization such as folder structure, Identity and Access Management (IAM)  model, network administration model, and more.

As a best practice, companies should engage in cross-functional dialogue within their organizations, including teams from IT to Finance to Program Management, ensuring everyone is aligned on changes to support future cloud processes. Furthermore, once a business has migrated from a physical datacenter to the cloud, they should consider whether their datacenter team is trained to support the systems and infrastructure of the cloud provider.

Phase 2: Planning

When a company is entering the Planning phase, they are leveraging the assets and deliverables gathered in the Discovery phase to create migration waves to be sequentially deployed into non-production and production environments.

Typically, it is best to target non-production migration waves first, which helps identify the sequence of waves to migrate first. To start, consider the following:

  • Mapping the current server inventory to the cloud platform’s machine types: Each current workload will generally run on a virtual machine type with similar computing power, memory, and disk. Oftentimes though, the current workload is overprovisioned, so each workload should be evaluated to ensure that it is migrated onto the right VM for that given workload.
  • Timelines: Businesses should lay out their target dates for each migration project.
  • Workloads in each grouping: Figure out what migration waves are grouped by i.e. non-production vs. production applications.
  • The cadence of code releases: Factor in any upcoming code releases as this may impact the decision of whether to migrate sooner or later.
  • Time for infrastructure deployment and testing: Allocate adequate time for testing infrastructures before fully moving over to the cloud.
  • The number of application dependencies: Migration order should be influenced by the number of application dependencies. The applications with the fewest dependencies are generally good candidates for migration first. In contrast, wait to migrate an application that depends on multiple databases.
  • Migration complexity and risk: Migration order should also take complexity into consideration. Tackling simpler aspects of the migration first will generally yield a more successful migration.

As mentioned above, the best practice for migration waves is to start with more predictable and simple workloads. For instance, companies should start with migrating file shares first, then databases and domain controlled, and save the apps for last. However, sometimes the complexity and dependencies don’t allow for a straightforward migration. In these cases, utilizing an experienced service provider who has experience with these complex environments will be prudent.

Phase 3: Execution

Once companies have developed a plan, they can bring them to fruition in the Execution phase. Here, businesses will need to be deliberate about the steps they take and the configurations they develop.

In the Execution phase, companies will put into place infrastructure components and ensure they are configured appropriately, like IAM, networking, firewall rules, and Service Accounts. Here is also where teams should test the applications on the infrastructure configurations to ensure that they have access to their databases, file shares, web servers, load balancers, Active Directory servers, and more. Execution also includes using logging and monitoring to ensure applications continue to function with the necessary performance.

In order for the Execution phase to be successful, there needs to be agile application debugging and testing. Moreover, organizations should have both a short and long-term plan for resolving blockers that may come up during the migration. The Execution phase is iterative and the goal should be to ensure that applications are fully tested on the new infrastructure.

Phase 4: Optimization

The last phase of a datacenter migration project is Optimization. After a business has migrated its workloads to the cloud, it should conduct periodic reviews and planning to optimize the workloads. Optimization includes the following activities:

  • Resizing machine types and disks
  • Leveraging software like Terraform for more agile and predictable deployments
  • Improving automation to reduce operational overhead
  • Bolstering integration with logging, monitoring, and alerting tools
  • Adopting managed services to reduce operational overhead

Cloud services provide visibility into resource consumption and spending, and organizations can more easily identify the compute resources they are paying for. Additionally, businesses can identify virtual machines they need or don’t need. By migrating from a traditional datacenter environment to a cloud environment, teams will be able to optimize their workloads due to the powerful tools that cloud platforms provide.

How do I take the first step in datacenter migration?

While undertaking a full datacenter migration is a significant project, it is worthwhile. The migration framework we’ve provided can help any business break down the process into manageable stages and move fully to the cloud.

When you’re ready to take the first step, we’re here to help to make the process even easier. Contact a 2nd Watch advisor today to get started with your migration to the cloud.

 


Riding the Digital Transformation: Why Enterprises Are Reengineering Their Cloud Infrastructure

Post 2020, how are you approaching the cloud? The rapid and unexpected digital transformation of 2020 forced enterprises worldwide to quickly mobilize workers using cloud resources. Now, as the world returns to an altered normal, it’s time for organizations to revisit their cloud infrastructure components with a fresh perspective. Hybrid work environments, industry transformations, changing consumer behavior, and growing cyber threats have all effected the way we do business. Now it might be time to change your cloud.

Risk mitigation at scale

Avoiding potential missteps in your strategy requires both wide and narrow insights. With the right cloud computing infrastructure, network equipment, and operating systems, organizations can achieve better risk mitigation and management with cloud scalability. As you continue to pursue business outcomes, you have to solve existing problems, as well as plan for the future. Some of these problems include:

  • Scaling your cloud platform and infrastructure services quickly to keep up with increasing and/or unexpected demand.
  • Maximizing cloud computing services and computing power to accommodate storage, speed, and resource demands.
  • Prioritizing new and necessary investments and delivery models within a fixed budget.
  • Innovating faster to remain, or gain, competitive advantage.

Overall, to avoid risk, you need to gain efficiency, and that’s what the cloud can do. Cloud infrastructure, applications, and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are designed to decrease input, and increase output and effectiveness. The scalability of cloud services allows enterprises to continue growing and innovating, without requiring heavy investments. With continuous cloud optimization, you’re positioned to adapt, innovate, and succeed regardless of the unknown future.

Application modernization for data leverage

Much of the digital transformation started with infrastructure modernization and the development of IaaS as a base line. Now, application modernization is accelerating alongside a changing migration pattern. What used to be simply ‘lift and shift’ is now ‘lift and evolve.’ Enterprises want to collaborate with cloud experts to gain a deeper understanding of applications as they become more cloud native. With a constant pipeline of new applications and services, organizations need guidance to avoid cloud cost sprawl and streamline environment integration.

As application modernization continues, organizations are gaining access to massive amounts of data that are enabling brand new opportunities. This requires a new look at database architectures to make sure you’re unlocking value internally and potentially, externally. While application modernization and database architecture are interconnected, they can also transform separately. We’re starting to see people recognize the importance of strategic cloud transformations that include the entire data footprint – whether it’s the underlying architecture, or the top level analytics.

Organizations are getting out of long-term licensing agreements, monetizing their data, gaining flexibility, cutting costs, and driving innovation, customer value, and revenue. Data is pulled from, and fed into, a lot of different applications within constantly changing cloud environments, which brings both challenges and opportunities. Enterprises must transform from this to that, but the end goal is constantly changing as well. Therefore continuous motion is necessary within the digital transformation.

Changing core business strategies

One thing is for sure about the digital transformation – it’s not slowing down. Most experts agree that even after pandemic safety precautions are eliminated, the digital transformation will continue to accelerate. After seeing the speed of adoption and opportunities in the cloud, many enterprises are reevaluating the future with new eyes. Budgets for IT are expanding, but so is the IT skills gap and cybersecurity incidents. These transitions present questions in a new light, and enterprises should revisit their answers.

  • Why do you still have your own physical data center?
  • What is the value in outsourcing? And insourcing?
  • How has your risk profile changed?
  • How does data allow you to focus on your core business strategy?

Answering these questions has more enterprises looking to partner with, and learn from, cloud experts – as opposed to just receiving services. Organizations want and need to work alongside cloud partners to close the skills gap within their enterprise, gain skills for internal expansion in the future, and better understand how virtualized resources can improve their business. It’s also a way to invest in your employees to reduce turn-over and encourage long-term loyalty.

Security and compliance

At this point with security, compliance, and ensuring business continuity, enterprises must have solutions in place. There is no other way. Ransomware and phishing attacks have been rising in sophistication and frequency year-over-year, with a noticeable spike since remote work became mainstream. Not only does your internal team need constant training and regular enforcement of governance policies, but there’s a larger emphasis on how your network protections are set up.

Regardless of automation and controls, people will make mistakes and there is an inherent risk in any human activity. In fact, human error is the leading cause of data loss with approximately 88% of all data breaches caused by an employee mistake. Unfortunately, the possibility of a breaches is often made possible because of your internal team. Typically, it’s the manner in which the cloud is configured or architected that creates a loophole for bad actors. It’s not that the public cloud isn’t secure or compliant, it’s that it’s not set up properly. This is where many enterprises are outsourcing data protection to avoid damaging compliance penalties, guarantee uninterrupted business continuity, and maintain the security of sensitive data after malicious or accidental deletion, natural disaster, or in the event that a device is lost, stolen or damaged.

Next steps: Think about day two

Enterprises who think of cloud migration as a one-and-done project – we were there, and now we’re here – aren’t ready to make the move. The cloud is not the answer. The cloud is an enabler to help organizations get the answers necessary to move in the direction they desire. There are risks associated with moving to the cloud – tools can distract from goals, system platforms need support, load balancers have to be implemented, and the cloud has to be leveraged and optimized to be beneficial long-term. Without strategizing past the migration, you won’t get the anticipated results.

It can seem overwhelming to take on the constantly changing cloud (and it certainly can be), but you don’t have to do it alone! Keep up with the pace and innovation of the digital transformation, while focusing on what you do best – growing your enterprise – by letting the experts help. 2nd Watch has a team of trusted cloud advisors to help you navigate cloud complexities for successful and ongoing cloud modernization. As an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Partner, a Microsoft Azure Gold Partner, and a Google Cloud Partner with over 10 years’ experience, 2nd Watch provides ongoing advisory services to some of the largest companies in the world. Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey!

-Michael Elliott, Director of Marketing